Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Reasons for deferral or even pulling out?

Philip Grant writes:
I have just received the following email, which gives at least one "technical reason" why the two WGLC applications have been deferred from the meeting on Wednesday 13 February, although it suggests that there is still some doubt over whether the new meeting will be on Thursday 21 February.
Dear Mr Grant 
You will hopefully have been notified earlier today that both applications have been deferred for consideration tomorrow and instead will be reported to a future meeting.  The date of the meeting will be notified to all who have expressed views on the application including yourself. 
One of the consequences of deferral will be to allow amendment and updates to the reports including reference to the Secretary of State on the Conservation Consent item.  I will update you once this has been done. 
Kind regards 
Chris WalkerAssistant Director (Planning & Development)
This reply follows exchanges of emails I have had with Mr Walker since the Planning Officer's report on the Conservation Area Consent application (12/2925) appeared on the Planning Committee agenda website.
I had pointed out that the recommendation made in the report, that Planning Committee should resolve to agree the Consent application in principle was unlawful, as only the Secretary of State, not Brent's Planning Committee, has authority to give any decision on this application. This had been agreed by Mr Walker, on behalf of then Chief Executive Gareth Daniel, as far back as May 2012, and Mr Walker had confirmed in November 2012, that this still applied to the new application for consent to partial demolition of the 1894 Library building.
All that is actually needed on this application is a brief report to Planning Committee, advising them that they need to refer it to the Secretary of State, and making provision for Mr Walker to implement the SoS's decision once he has made it.
Although the meeting may only be deferred for a week, it means that the proposed redevelopment of WGLC will not have received planning permission by the first anniversary of the Development Agreement between Brent Council and Galliford Try (signed 15 February 2012). This means that either party can now cancel that agreement, as planning approval within twelve months was a "condition precedent". It does not mean that either of them will pull out, but it may be worth mentioning this to your local councillors as an option they may like to consider, to stop wasting even more money on this ill-considered project.


  1. Is there any way under the freedom of information act we can find out how much this has already cost the Brent Taxpayer? Would be an interesting figure I'm sure.

  2. Another interesting figure would be the additional cost to the tax payer of: 1. Delaying the application when it will inevitably go ahead at a later date i.e. 21st (although recognise that the responsibility firmly lies with the Council to ensure the legalities were straight in the first instance!); and 2. The KWG led Village Green application which, should it not be granted, will represent a terrible waste of tax payer money.

  3. Martin H: How do you know that the WGCC application will 'inevitably go ahead'? Why will the represent a terrible waste of tax payers' money?
    Alex C

  4. ....the Village Green application represent a terrible waste....

  5. Because both parties - the developer and Council - want the development to go ahead, and have both vested such a significant amount of time/resource/ money into the application thus far that i very much doubt that pulling out now is a viable option to either. There is also no reason why they would actually want to pull out of the application.

    Village Green applications cost Councils a huge amount of money in legal/ process etc fees, and especially so if it ends up in court for judicial review. Recent examples: Buxton Council spent £100,000 in legal advice contesting a TGV; Poole Council recently spent over £100,000 on legal and staffing costs for two TVGs.
    Hence why the LGA say "Unfortunately, millions of pounds of taxpayer's money are currently being spent by councils processing 'village green' applications whose primary aim is to prevent development” – prime example being that here in Willesden Green.
    It is for this very reason that the Government is pushing through reform to the law so that (most likely from this summer onwards) TVG applications cannot be considered for land subject to planning permission.
    Personally I (and I’m sure a lot of residents) would rather see tax money being spend on better things i.e. capital projects to IMPROVE OUR AREA, rather than applications such as this. If unsuccessful, I wonder if the applicant would be happy to refund the tax payer’s money which would have been wasted?

  6. Martin H - we're agreed on your first point. The Council and Galliford Try have thought of nothing but their own interest (more office space and profit, respectively) and have pretty systematically ignored the views of local residents. Some of us think such an attitude is deeply undemocratic and unaccountable, that's why we're part of KWG.

    As regards the costs to Town Square/Village Green applications, it is the Inquiry itself which might prove costly. My understanding is that Brent Council can decide at any time when and whether to turn a public space into a Town Square/Village Green. It opted not to accept the current application and instead turn to the costly process of an inquiry - mainly, I guess, because couldn't jeopardise its agreement with Galliford Try. So, despite clear evidence that in 1983, when the new library was built, the open public space outside the library was deemed essential to putting a 'green' into Willesden. And despite the fact that the town square is unquestionably the only breathing space on our High Road, the Council and Galliford Try have insisted on destroying that space forever, just so they can build 95 luxury flats in the rear of the proposed development.
    By all means claim a refund from Brent Council and Galliford Try for wasting taxpayers money on an Inquiry - and set up your own pressure group or petition so that your voices get heard (just don't use a template and gather bogus supporters)

    For my part, I count the costs of destroying this public space in a different currency: the permanent loss for our own and future generations of the only meaningful open gathering place we have in our neighbourhood.

    Alex C

  7. Alex
    The Inquiry (and subsequent cost of this) is directly in response to the application from KWG, which was made purely as a means to prevent the development going forward. I’m not doubting that the area in front of the library is valuable breathing space on the High Road (the issue of whether it actually and legally constitutes a ‘Town Square’ will be made independently by the Inspector), but my question is that if it was such a cherished area by residents, then why hasn’t an application to make it a Town Square and protect it been lodged between 1983 and prior to the development proposals.
    I do understand your view in the last paragraph; however, I count the cost of losing the public space in another light – that it will be potentially be offset through regeneration of High Road and locality (as well as improvements through S106 funding) which will create a better environment for the future.

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